I have a confession: last night I skipped a networking event so I could “treat” myself to an episode of the new show by Netflix, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It was my second episode. I watched the first one on Monday night to reward myself for a lot of work accomplished that day.
Marie Kondo has the most joyful and optimistic spirit. I love her way of greeting the house in the beginning and taking a moment to thank the home for the protection it has provided to the family. She also asks for cooperation with the project ahead. Truly, her way of approaching it makes the process of clearing seem sacred, rather than a chore.
One thing that bothers me about these projects is that the women always seem to feel excessive amounts of guilt over the mess. The men very seldom feel guilt, though they often seem to feel frustrated with the women over not being able to keep things clean.
My mixed reaction is probably due to my feminist complaint regarding women as the presumed keepers of the home, along with my desire to have vastly less STUFF. I love that feeling of open space that comes with removing clutter. And of course I also love my bookshelves full of precious gems.
It does seem that the couples who start with skepticism eventually get to a place of actually enjoying the process of de-cluttering. By the end of the first two episodes, there were drastic transformations, and also very happy couples much more content with their relationships as well as their space. They appear joyous and radiant after the transformation.
This is re-igniting my desire to continue with my own de-clutter process. Now that I work from home for much of the week, when I am not careful my things can pile up quickly. Putting it all away at the end of the day so I can relax is an important discipline I tried to start about a year ago. Perhaps now it is even more relevant to my quality of life since there is less of a boundary between work and home life.
It was a thought-provoking piece and I am still mulling it over today, in light of world news, and in light of experiences I have had in my life and career.
“Patriarchy persists because power does not willingly cede its clout; and also, frankly, because women are widely complicit in the assumption that we’re separate and not quite equal.”
She explains how we are so embedded within the patriarchy that sometimes it is difficult to perceive it. I have heard patriarchy likened to being a fish in water, but not knowing what “water” is – it is the stuff we swim around in every day. We do not know what it is because we have never been without it for any length of time. Patriarchy is like water: it envelopes our lives in such a way that it becomes our reality.
But fortunately humans are not fish. And our breathing is not dependent on the existence of the patriarchy, though it may seem like our livelihoods indeed depend on it for many.
I realize part of my aversion to corporate life these days reflects partly an exhaustion with a patriarchal system that does not value work based on merit. It privileges the contributions of one gender over another. It does not value people and their multiplicity of contributions, the range of what they could bring to the table when given an opportunity.
I am fortunate to work in a company that places a high value on employees as people, and usually lives up to that tenet of our mission. But looking at a wall of inductees to its highest scientific honor society, counting the ~70 people’s faces and realizing that just 10% of them our women, I sigh and wonder.
There are so many barriers to women attempting to enter realms of work like science, engineering, politics, higher management. Some of these barriers are internal: we lack confidence or we are not sure we have the competence to enter. We erect higher standards for ourselves than men have to try these positions, and worry more about making mistakes.
The socialization of women and girls has evolved a bit in the 4+ decades since I was born. The availability of sports teams and competitive opportunities has allowed more of us to challenge ourselves and take leadership in new areas. And yet when we lack critical mass, we must work much harder to build professional alliances and networks.
The “old boys club” is very much a reality in many of the corporate environments where we work. My own experience has shown me that men who mentor and sponsor us at work can be professional and appropriate in their behavior. But patriarchy functions subtly here as well.
My boss treats me a bit like a daughter figure – I can tell he is proud of me and my achievements. He wants me to “brag” more and to make sure others know about my accomplishments. He allows me to make my own mistakes and learn from my experiences. But he has also been protective of me in a way that may be different from how he has treated his male proteges. Whether that is an aspect of personality or of systemic bias, it is impossible to really separate out. We swim in patriarchy so clear vision is obscured.
This morning I will return to a project group of mostly men (25% women) to work on a design project for technology that needs an upgrade. I found myself wanting to share more of my creativity yesterday during the “ideation” phase of our human-centered design process. But I found myself holding back. I was not sure why. The group is unfamiliar to me, and that is a barrier sometimes.
It does no good to blame the patriarchy when we struggle to get our ideas out, when there are also internal barriers as well. But it does help to understand the context of why women are less confident putting themselves out there. Kingsolver notes: “It’s really not possible to overreact to uncountable, consecutive days of being humiliated by men who say our experience isn’t real…”
Exactly. This type of rape culture makes working “outside our comfort zone” a regular and daily occurrence. Is it any wonder that taking risks in business or engineering feels so dangerous? While many of us learn to live and even thrive in these environments, we also realize women are disproportionately attacked and thus we remain on guard for more of waking hours.
I am contemplating the the notion of getting ugly as Kingsolver recommends. I definitely think we need to dispense with making ourselves pretty and “acceptable” and comfortable for men. It simply does not serve anyone, ourselves or the wider world, to neglect the gifts and talents of half the world’s population.
Men have been ugly to women privately in ways that are now becoming public. And it has caused some seismic shifts in the way women realize how non-personal and cultural all of that behavior has been. I agree that we must never tolerate this behavior, and if that makes me ugly, I am fine with that.
Some of you regular readers to my blog might know that I was hospitalized 10 days ago for an emergency appendectomy surgery. Fortunately my recovery continues to go well, and I am truly grateful for the wonderful care I received, and for my husband picking up the ball as I dropped it.
Last February I encountered a Good Life Project podcast with Tiffany Dufu, who had written a book bearing the title: Drop the Ball: Achieve More by Doing Less. In it she explores the her journey as a feminist woman and the issues she discovered about managing things at home with her also feminist husband after returning to work post-pregnancy.
Women still experience the Second Shift (a term coined by Arlie Hoschild in 1989) which describes the process of the second job many of them work when they return home, to take care of the housework and child care, even after working a full day outside of the home. But Tiffany Dufu helped me see it at another level. She helped me understand that the kind of perfectionism we apply to our home lives does not serve us as women. She refers to it as “home control disease.”
We often fail to ask for help from our spouses or male partners, instead taking tasks on because we “know he won’t do it right” or have higher standards for cleanliness. In my previous relationship, I was very conscientious about learning to put up with mess and clutter. I know that he didn’t care about it, so I wasn’t going to become someone’s idea of a Latina housewife, or maid or cleaning lady. I simply blocked out the mess in my mind.
I was recently noting the Christmas cards I received this year, and the fact that ALL of them (save for one, but he has an assistant who I am sure sent them out) were from women. It is Moms, Aunts and Grandmas that send holiday cards, not Dads, Uncles and Grandpas.
I caught myself chiding myself for not being organized enough to get cards out this year, especially because I was planning to put wedding pictures in there. But then I thought: my husband is not doing that. He has no expectation that he must do things like Christmas cards each year. Most husbands are not expected to do that, nor do they chide themselves for being disorganized. That’s already been delegated (in their heads) to their wives.
Then I considered the fact that I always clean up and de-clutter before our cleaning service arrives once a month to clean the kitchen, living room and bathroom. Usually this means excess clutter gets dropped in the bedrooms, where we do not ask them to clean. I continue to cut down on clutter, but it still seems to multiply, maybe when I am not looking…
But why is it that I run around (usually frantic) trying to clean each month? This time, my surgery recovery really slowed down that process and I had to think it through.
I realize it reflects a lot of privilege on my part to have someone to come in to clean. My husband and I do not even own a house together yet, but I knew this would be a non-negotiable if we moved in together. I simply will not become someone’s housewife, and I know that would be my temptation.
But I still de-clutter and ask my husband to do the same each month. He has no worries about others’ judgment of him for his messy habits (as I do, apparently). But he usually obliges unless he is sick or something, in which case I pick up the slack.
Holidays are like this too: how often is it the women you see planning the holiday meals, decorating and making things festive? How often do we come down on a guy for not hosting a party, or not picking up his home? And yet, as women, how often do we self-criticize for a bunch of household chores that really are voluntary to complete?
I realize this is a bit of a rant, but I think it deserves some thought. What is it you REALLY have to do today, and are there places you have not thought about sharing the load with a spouse or partner?
I am in Mexico City today to conduct three interviews for our clinical research specialist opening in the local office here. I also get to visit with a colleague who is no longer in my group but is one of my favorite people in my company. I am grateful for this opportunity to connect with her, and she agreed to help with the interviews.
It will be a busy Tuesday but I wanted to check in and say: if you have never been to a big city that is constantly alive and awake, come to Mexico City. You think New York City has options? Pshaw! It has nothing on this city. I’m serious! I am in Colonia Napoles which is a nice part of the city, near where my office is located, and the neighborhood of Frida Kahlo, apparently.
I started reflecting on the fact that having a U.S. passport is a privilege I should not take for granted. Then I started thinking of all the potential leadership development projects I could undertake with various Mexicanas and other Latinas I know. I got really excited thinking about this possibility and a little chill down my spine.
Oh, I have to pay attention to those signs. And I do. It is good right now that I have a job that affords me the luxury of traveling down here. I do not take that for granted. I’m starting to re-frame what I am doing and think about other ways I can execute my personal life goals in a way that is meaningful to me.
Cheers & have a great week. If you love Mexico as much as I do, check out my previous post on this topic which has better pics. Adios, amigos/as!
I am writing a piece about my father this week, to honor him for his 75th birthday this Wednesday. I kept thinking about an episode of On Being with Krista Tippett. It was a conversation with Franciscan Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation (Albuquerque) in which they explored the concept of “father hunger” in so many men.
Rohr referred to his experience as a jail chaplain in which he found that the universal commonality he found among the people he encountered in jail was that it was rare, if ever, to find someone who had a good father. Many had alcoholic, emotionally unavailable or abusive fathers. He explains that the rage that results from this early experience moves out toward all of society, a mistrust of all authority figures, policemen, etc.
It creates an interesting bind when we think of God as “the heavenly Father,” a masculine figure. For someone who has never experienced a loving male in their lives to hear that “God, the Father, loves you” does not have any connection or sense of truth in it, given the lived experience.
I wonder sometimes if our need to see god as a father figure just reflects our lack of father presence in our lives. My personal view of god(dess) is that she may be female, and more likely gender-less or gender-full. Certainly beyond our understanding when it comes to gender. If I look at god as creator, I believe there are elements of the divine feminine and divine masculine contained within.
The dynamic quality of nature, and the complementary elements we encounter in our explorations of science make that abundantly clear to me.
This is where I think the patriarchy fails us in terms of validating and reinforcing the role of fathers in giving care and attention to children. Mother is seen as the primary care-giver. And while there is no doubt mother gets “stuck” with the care of children and perhaps many mothers viscerally relate to that, men also have a critical role.
A friend of mine recently reflected on her career choices and on the fact that when she and her husband had children they decided that the person earning more money would work, and the other one would stay home with the children. They had two boys, and now the second is about to enter school. Her husband is now going back into the workforce about about 5 years at home being the primary care-giver to their sons.
She reflected on how grateful she felt for his willingness to stay home with them, and the wonderful relationship and closeness her sons now have with their father. As a Mom working a fair number of hours and increasing in her leadership at work, she no doubt had moments of conflict about having to spend time away from her children. Knowing they had a good care-giver, their own father, I am sure put her concerns to rest much of the time.
I believe that time invested by fathers in knowing their children and having some time with them pays dividends in terms of the long-term well-being of children. It reminds me of times when my own father would take me to the movies on a weekend, just the two of us when I was about 5 years old. Mom was home with my younger sister when she was a baby, and we would go to see something like Pinocchio or a cartoon playing in our local small-town theater.
Sometimes we would stay for more than one showing! Back in those days (late 70’s/early 80’s) nobody cared about that, and we both loved these movies. There was usually a long feature, maybe one or two short ones and then they would plan the long one again. Perhaps this is where my love for mythical frameworks and stories comes from. I remember these early memories of having quality time with my Dad.
Before I started kindergarten my Dad had already taught me to read, and both he and my Mom read me many books and stories when I was young. They were teachers and they valued reading and books. I remember loving the time before bed when we typically had time to be read a story. It was probably Mom doing this most of the time, but I recall Dad doing this as well.
I wonder how our world might be different if we appreciated and honored the ways in which fathers play a role in caring for young people, and nurturing them in different ways. I absolutely honor and respect the work mothers do in nurturing children and caring for them. And I believe we have missing pieces if our fathers are not part of that story also. Many fathers do what is necessary to earn money, support their families and dole out the discipline (anyone else recognize: “Just WAIT until your father gets home!”).
But they must provide more than discipline and order to make a positive impact on a child’s life. They must provide love, acceptance, support and care. They are not a “bonus” parent, they are a necessary part of a child’s life. They shape the view that children absorb about how the world works. They help instill self-discipline sometimes, another value I learned from my own father.
Both daughters and sons benefit from this presence of a father, grandfather or some male parental figure or mentor us in our early growth and development. Sadly, the way the patriarchy casts and distorts masculinity, many of us are without these images of loving protection. Men are not supposed to be vulnerable or weak, and this affects how they interact with children. Modern and enlightened men realize that this ability to be vulnerable, especially with their loved ones and children, is what we often need and want in order to truly connect.
But when we lack these examples and images, all we are left with is father hunger. If we adopt a more inclusive view, along with valuing the contributions of both men and women to family life, I believe we can transform our culture.
Given our environmental and societal needs for healing and transformation, women and men working together are indeed what is needed. Fathers, mothers, aunties, uncles, child-free women like myself and all of the good people in the world that realize the nature of our problems as one planet. We should hunger for peace and for unity, not for the fathers we may not have had in our lives.